Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston with the photos taken by Mike
Sometimes retail blog posts just don’t go as planned. This is the case with this post. Only a few weeks ago, Mike and I discussed the possibility of us doing a blog post about OfficeMax and Staples’ small presence in the Houston area in current times. Both names are so rare in Houston these days that many of our readers might have forgotten that they both still exist in the Houston area. So, with that, Mike traveled to Hedwig Village to photograph the Hedwig Village OfficeMax located at 9429 Katy Fwy, Houston, TX 77024.
Unfortunately, as you can see from the photos, Mike was greeted with the yellow and black banner of doom. The Hedwig Village OfficeMax is closing soon! Mike’s photos were taken in very late September 2023. The closing sale still appears to be in the early stages of the liquidation so we estimate that the store will still be open for a few more weeks, but we do not know the official closing date. Anyway, once we knew that this store was closing, it changed our plans for the post. Instead of focusing on OfficeMax and Staples’ small presence in Houston, we will instead have some general thoughts about the history of OfficeMax in the Houston area.
The OfficeMax name will continue to live on in the Houston area after the Hedwig Village store closes, but it is a bit difficult to know exactly how many OfficeMax locations are left in the Houston area. After OfficeMax’s merger with Office Depot in 2013, records for the two stores are a bit blurred. The Office Depot/OfficeMax website, for example, lists 1576 W Gray St, Houston, TX 77019 as being a currently-open OfficeMax, but that store was rebannered to Office Depot two years ago. Aside from Hedwig Village, we believe that there are remaining OfficeMax stores in The Woodlands, Magnolia near The Woodlands, and in Cinco Ranch. Of course, it is possible that some of these locations will close soon as well. It is also interesting to note that all of these locations, including Hedwig Village, are in relatively wealthy areas of the metro area. The Hedwig Village location appears to be the last remaining OfficeMax in Harris County. For the record, the remaining Houston area Staples stores are at I-10 and Taylor St., Beltway 8 & Wallisville Rd., and near Baybrook Mall. There are still quite a few Office Depots in Houston, but Office Depot has been closing stores in recent years as well.
The Hedwig Village OfficeMax is, by itself, not a particularly interesting store from a historical perspective. It is one of OfficeMax’s newest Houston stores with it opening in 2005 after the former Target shopping center was redeveloped when Target moved to nearby Memorial City Mall, a mall recently profiled by Je of the Louisiana & Texas Retail Blog. Also, Office Depot-OfficeMax shoppers in the area will not have to go far to find another location as there is an Office Depot located just 1.6 miles west on Interstate 10 at 10217 Katy Fwy, Houston, TX 77024. Those unfamiliar with Houston might be surprised to see two stores from the same chain so close together surviving for so long, but the Memorial City Mall area is a dense shopping district with many large offices and neighborhoods nearby so perhaps the two stores did well for a while.
OfficeMax entered Houston by acquiring another office supply chain, BizMart, in 1992. BizMart was based in Arlington, TX and was founded in the late 1980s in part by a former Tandy executive, Ron Steagall. Houston was one of their first expansion areas. BizMart announced their plans to enter Houston in 1988 and the first BizMart stores in Houston opened in 1990 after Office Depot entered Houston in 1988 during the big boom of big box office supply stores in Houston and in the rest of the country. Staples would not enter Houston until the mid-2000s.
BizMart would later be sold to Intelligent Electronics. Under the ownership of Intelligent Electronics, BizMart started opening BizMart Mega Centers which had expanded computer departments. In 1992, BizMart was sold to a chain from under the Kmart umbrella named OfficeMax. Due to Kmart’s own financial difficulties, OfficeMax was spun off as an independent company in 1995. Ron Steagall would later go on to co-found the short-lived LiL’ Things children’s-oriented big box stores, which had locations in Houston, in the mid-1990s.
BizMart had a fairly significant presence in Houston at the time that OfficeMax took them over and started rebannering their stores to the OfficeMax name. For those unfamiliar with BizMart, The Portal to Texas History has an excellent video from KXAS-TV in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area showing off a BizMart store in 1989. Like Office Depot stores at the time, BizMart was very much a warehouse-type store with computers, office furniture, and other items out on display for customers to interact with to make more informed purchases, but BizMart put a bit more emphasis on their displays rather than just stacking inventory to the ceiling. We would shop at the Northwest Mall BizMart during the brief time that the BizMart name was around in Houston and we generally preferred them to Office Depot even though Office Depot was closer to us due to BizMart being a bit more upscale and a tad less warehouse-like. Not long after OfficeMax bought BizMart, OfficeMax opened a store at the Willowbrook The Commons and that was the OfficeMax we shopped at most frequently.
Although big box office supply stores hardly seem remarkable in modern times, which probably helps explain their shrinking numbers, they were a big deal in the 1990s and 2000s. Prior to those days, there weren’t many options for buying office supplies locally outside of small local businesses which sold office supplies. In my area, the Willowbrook area, the main small office supply store was Reliable Office Supply, later known as Basic Office Supply, which was located at the Cy-Fair Plaza shopping center on Jones Rd. & Grant Rd. and, later, on Woodedge near Jones. In addition to stationary and other common office supplies, the big box office supply stores were also one of the national first chain stores to specialize in selling computers, computer software, and computer accessories. These stores were also some of the only chain stores which sold office furniture and, of course, these stores also had copy & printing centers.
In fact, one of OfficeMax’s big marketing pushes in the mid-1990s was the TriMax format where they advertised TriMax OfficeMax stores as being essentially three stores in one, an office supply store, a furniture store, and a copy center. Although the TriMax sub-banner was only used on a few locations, such as this one documented by Retail Retell of the Mid-South Retail Blog, the general concept continues to this day.
I find that in the retail enthusiast community, most retail enthusiasts preferred the pre-Office Depot merger OfficeMax over the other two big office supply chains. I agree with that sentiment. Since Staples was a late arriver here, Houston was a battle between Office Depot and OfficeMax during the prime years of office supply stores. While Office Depot did make their stores feel less warehouse-like by the late 1990s, their stores did not feel as upscale as OfficeMax’s stores which were more BizMart-like. Sure, OfficeMax stores were certainly big box stores, but their store designs and displays just felt a bit nicer. I also generally preferred their merchandise. Ultimately, we bought a lot of stuff from both stores, but it seemed like we bought more things from OfficeMax than from Office Depot.
As a computer enthusiast, OfficeMax was a great place to buy computer supplies. It was common in the early 2000s for computer enthusiasts to eagerly await the weekly OfficeMax sales circular to see what products OfficeMax would have severely discounted, if not free, after mail-in rebate. Although many stores, including Office Depot, had mail-in rebate fever in the early 2000s, it seems that OfficeMax pushed the rebate system more than anyone else. I remember getting quite a number of floppy diskettes and packages of CD-Rs from OfficeMax for free after rebate. Granted, the rebate process was neither pleasant nor expedient, but if you did manage to get the check in the mail, it did provide significant savings. Although I had a CD burner in the mid-1990s when they were quite expensive, I can remember many friends buying their first CD burners and other PC peripherals from OfficeMax due to OfficeMax’s aggressive pricing and rebates.
After the merger with Office Depot, the two stores are basically the same. However, as we see with the photos from the Hedwig Village location, OfficeMax stores are generally surviving with mid-2000s or older OfficeMax décor. It is not uncommon for retailers to still have mid-2000s décor here in current times, but the OfficeMax décor at the Hedwig Village OfficeMax does have a certain feel to it reminding me of the glory years of category-killer big box retail in general.
Do you have any memories or thoughts about OfficeMax, BizMart, or any of the other big box office supply stores? If so, share those thoughts with us in the comments section below. Also, if you have any news about office supply stores in your area, please share that news with us in the comments section as it is otherwise hard to find news about these stores.